With another big season, Romello Harris will be within reach of the Central Section’s career rushing record.
With another year of straight A’s, he also will graduate from Tulare High with a near-4.0 GPA before embarking on a college football career.
Neither accomplishment seemed very likely not long ago.
Not as Harris was coming to the end of a turbulent period that saw him bounce around 18 schools, for various reasons, between his kindergarten and eighth-grade years.
“He’s done everything you can imagine, the whole gamut,” said Tulare Principal Michelle Nunley, the woman Harris now calls Mom. “From suspended to expelled, I think he’s done it all.”
Harris went into a little more detail.
5,368 Rushing yards for Tulare’s Romello Harris, 13th best in section history and 2,662 yards from breaking career record, according to historian Bob Barnett
“Some I’ve been kicked out of for not going, others for fights,” Harris said. “I’ve been suspended. I’ve moved a lot. I’ve been to expulsion schools and been kicked out of those.”
That was before Nunley and husband, Greg, brought Harris into their home and made him one of their six children, joining biological daughters Brayden, 16, and Bellejah, 8, and sons Bear, 14, Blaze, 12, and Braxton, 11.
With the Nunleys providing structure and support, Harris has blossomed into a scholar-athlete who is the B he received in Algebra 2 away from having an unweighted 4.0 GPA.
He’s also become one of the section’s best football players, rushing for 5,368 yards, 13th best in history, according to historian Bob Barnett, and scoring 65 touchdowns through his first three seasons while drawing interest from colleges across the country.
That’s one of the things I’m proudest about him, what he’s done to make himself a good student.
Coach Darren Bennett on star running back Romello Harris, who bounced around 18 schools before becoming a near-4.0 student at Tulare High
“He’s a kid who has a lot of God-given abilities and also has worked really, really hard at his craft, hard in the weight room and hard in the classroom,” Redskins coach Darren Bennett said. “That’s one of the things I’m proudest about him, what he’s done to make himself a good student.”
Harris was raised since birth by his maternal grandmother, Lena Reedom, in Tulare.
And it wasn’t always an easy life.
Harris admits to growing up around guns and drugs, with relatives ending up in prison.
Reedom died while Harris was in the sixth grade, prompting a move to live with his mother, Tenisha Reedom, in Hanford.
The reunion was rough.
“Me and my mom didn’t get along well,” Harris said.
Following a year and a half with his mother, Harris wanted to return to Tulare, where he hoped to play high school football for Bennett and with the friends he made in youth football.
Harris stayed with a couple of different people before he and good friend Brayden Nunley came up with a new plan. They wanted Harris to join the Nunley family following his freshman year in football, where he broke onto the section scene with 947 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns despite starting the season at receiver before moving to running back in the third game.
Michelle and Greg Nunley agreed under the condition that Harris accept the rules of the house, which include having straight A’s to keep privileges. The Nunleys were given legal custody in November 2012.
“We told Romello if you really want to do this, it’s not the same as when you come over as a guest and you’re swimming and having pizza,” Michelle Nunley said. “You’re one of six now. It’s been a good fit. We all love him.”
And sometimes that love is tough, like when Nunley learned Harris was receiving a C midway through Algebra 2 last year.
That meant bye-bye cellphone.
He said ‘Mom, I’m not going to lie, when you told me I had to have a 4.0, I thought you were crazy. And I said, ‘Isn’t it something when someone believes in you, and you believe in yourself, what you can accomplish?’
Michelle Nunley, Tulare principal and Romello Harris’ legal guardian
“He said ‘Mom, I’m not going to lie, when you told me I had to have a 4.0, I thought you were crazy,’” said Nunley, a 22-year educator and 10-year principal at Tulare. “And I said, ‘Isn’t it something when someone believes in you, and you believe in yourself, what you can accomplish?’ So he works hard in the classroom and on the football field. He’s a great kid with great character.”
Harris raised the grade to a B by the end of the semester and learned a lesson.
“She’s strict, but she’s always looking out for me,” Harris said. “(The Nunleys) didn’t have to take me in, but they did and have treated me just as if I was birthed by them. They mean a lot to me, especially being kind enough to open their arms to me and become family to me.”
Making his mark
Harris really took off as a football player as a sophomore, rushing for 1,860 yards and 15 touchdowns in 10 games.
A 2,561-yard, 35-touchdown junior year leaves Harris 2,661 yards shy of the section’s career rushing record set by Mendota’s Edgar Segura from 2013-2011.
Harris would need to average 266.1 yards per game if the Redskins play only 10. He averaged 213.4 yards over his 12 games last season while leading Tulare into the Division II semifinals.
Another deep playoff run is expected for the Redskins this season as they return 51 players, including second-year starting junior quarterback Josh Guerrero, explosive sophomore receiver Emoryie Edwards and the biggest offensive line Tulare has featured in at least eight years.
“The better his quarterback does throwing the ball, the better (Romello) will be,” Bennett said. “And he said the other day that he’s never run behind an offensive line this big and physical and athletic. That will make a big difference for him.”
With fewer than 900 yards rushing, Harris would join the section’s all-time top four. He’s 2,394 yards from breaking Dominique Dorsey’s school record of 7,761 yards, the second-best total in section history.
Any goal is possible. I’m shooting for the stars, and if I miss, I’ll still be high up there.
Romello Harris on his pursuit of the Central Section career rushing record
“I always say I want to be the school’s top rusher and the section’s top rusher,” Harris said. “Any goal is possible. I’m shooting for the stars, and if I miss, I’ll still be high up there.”
Bennett said Harris and Dorsey (who went on to star at UNLV) have an important trait in common.
“He has that ability, like Dominique did, to go from zero to full-bore in two steps,” Bennett said. “He’s a great one-cut runner. He gets the ball, puts one foot in the ground and goes. And, he can run you over, too.”
Harris enters his senior year undecided on his college choice.
But it’s not for lack of options.
Colorado State was among the first to offer. Washington State of the Pac-12 has pushed hard, making its desire known by sending more than 40 hand-written letters from the coaching staff.
Fresno State has offered. So have the service academies (Air Force, Army and Navy) and academic powerhouses Duke and Northwestern.
27th Rivals’ national rating for Romello Harris among prep running backs in the Class of 2016
Bennett said USC and Florida will decide whether to make a push based on his performance during the first couple of games this season, which starts Aug. 27 when the Redskins host El Diamante and continues Sept. 4 at Garces and Sept. 11 at home against Redwood.
“He’s got a lot of pressure on him,” Bennett said. “But it’s an exciting time for him. He’s got a lot of offers, and a couple of big-time kind of places.”
Harris is impressed with the tenacity Washington State has shown in recruiting. Colorado State is a draw because of close friend J.C. Robles, the former El Diamante quarterback who was part of the Rams’ recruiting class in 2014. USC and Florida speak for themselves.
But Harris isn’t expected to decide until after the season. Signing day is Feb. 4.
“It’s been crazy,” Harris said. “You always see the stories on ESPN or Twitter of kids getting recruited, and now that’s me. I’m just taking it one step at a time.”
Wherever Harris lands, he has a plan for his post-football life.
And it’s all about giving back, the way the Nunleys did for him.
“I want to be there for kids who have troubles or struggle,” Harris said. “I was one of those kids, and I’ve seen what I can do. I want to make a difference in someone’s life.”
Central Section career rushing leaders
- 1. Edgar Segura, Mendota, 8,029 yards, 2011-13
- 2. Dominique Dorsey, Tulare, 7,761 yards, 1998-2001
- 3. Steve Wofford, Bakersfield, 7,100 yards, 1992-94
- 4. Kenny James, Dos Palos, 6,197 yards, 1999-01
- 5. Cameron Loeffler, Exeter, 6,186 yards, 2006-08
- 13. Romello Harris, Tulare, 5,368 yards, 2001-2014
Source: Central Section historian Bob Barnett
Tulare High 2015 schedule
- Aug. 27: vs. El Diamante, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 4: at Garces, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 11: vs. Redwood, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 18: at Kingsburg, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 2: vs. Dinuba, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 9: vs. Monache, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 16: at Delano, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 23: at Porterville (Granite Hills), 7 p.m.
- Oct. 30: at Mission Oak (Mathias), 7 p.m.
- Nov. 6: at Tulare Western (Mathias), 6:30 p.m.